Recognizing Opportunity and Working Hard

Stephen Kofi Ocloo
Class of 2005

An internship is an experience for students who want to have a feel of the environment that awaits them after school. It equips the student not only psychologically but also gives him or her, the opportunity to deal with the practical side of what is studied in class. Ashesi University makes it a point to educate its students on the importance of internships, and this led to my search for one. Just as my colleagues did, I applied to a few companies and was even called for an interview at Data Bank. But I was not offered any jobs. As the holidays got closer, I began to get desperate.

INTERPLAST: The Magic of Unforeseen Opportunity

One day while I was going through my books, I found a business card that the Managing Director of INTERPLAST gave to me a couple of weeks earlier. We met in a rather unusual way; through a motor accident in the streets of Accra. I gave him a call which led to my internship at INTERPLAST.

The Company

INTERPLAST LTD manufactures high quality unplasticised polyvinyl chloride (uPVC), high density polyethylene (HDPE) pipes for water and gas supply, sewage, borehole and telecommunication purposes. In addition, the company's production line includes Panelast (Tongue and Groove paneling product) and Everlast (PVC windows & doors frames). I was particularly excited to work at INTERPLAST because of the company's strong brand visibility in the country and the size of its customer base, which ranged from retailers to mining companies and governments in the local and international markets. I decided to make the best out of my stay there.

I worked in the Export Sales department under the supervision of Mr. Sabi, Export Sales Manager, from the 5th July through 24th August 2004. After a tour of the company, I started work. The Export Sales department does a series of activities which mainly have to do with sales processes such as communication with customers about product inventories, sales, and customs declaration (for export sales).

My Experience

My most memorable experience at INTERPLAST was attending a four-day International Mining Exhibition. I had to familiarize myself with the specifications of INTERPLAST products, in order to attend to the visitors at the company booth. I attended to visitors, including the Honorable J.H Mensah, Senior Minister. After the exhibition I wrote a report recommending improvements to INTERPLAST's product line, and especially EVERLAST range of household products. Most visitors to our stand at the exhibition were very surprised to learn that INTERPLAST produced household hardware! Applying lessons learned in my marketing class I recommended TV advertising to introduce the EVERLAST products, and especially demonstrating the "tilt and turn" feature of EVERLAST windows.

After the exhibition, I started to do more independent work, and my confidence grew. I enjoyed giving technical advice to our customers. I calculated and made recommendations on optimum pipe thickness depending on the outer diameter of the pipe and the internal pressure anticipated. Due to interdepartmental dependency, my job took me on errands to other departments, giving me an opportunity to stretch my legs and meet some very interesting factory workers.

My internship experience was not all pleasant though. I had great difficulty communicating with one of the managers: an Indian national whose heavy accent often got in the way of communication, and who in frustration often resorted to yelling. I had never experienced such behavior before and I was quiet unnerved by it. On the advice of my coworker, I took it all in stride and focused on my work. Some other workers were amazingly nice though; they made me feel so comfortable in their presence.

Key Lessons

I learned two key lessons at INTERPLAST. First, at INTERPLAST LTD., customers were the most important people on the premises at any point in time. This customer oriented behavior was practice by all workers. It reminded me of what the managing director had once told me, "The secret of our growth lies in how we treat our customers." Second, INTERPLAST values hard work. I learned from one of my colleagues that the head of department was very impressed with my attitude towards work, especially, compared with interns from other universities in Ghana. My colleague's words made me work even harder. I realized that Mr. Sabi was not only observant but appreciative of my work, even though one could hardly tell since he was always immersed in his own work.

Last Days

A few days before the end of my internship, the managing director called me to his office to check whether I had found my internship a good learning experience. I appreciated this caring gesture on his part. My stay at INTERPLAST LTD. has not only taught me many new things but has helped me build my confidence in the working world. Despite the pressure that came with the work load in my department, I had a very interesting and educative time, thanks to the nice and helpful personnel of INTERPLAST LTD. Furthermore, I believe this experience has equipped me to better appreciate the courses I am taking this semester